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IT was Sunday night, or rather in the early darkness of the small hours

of Monday morning, that Police-Constable Hobbs wended his slow and

deliberate way down the vista of Walker Street.  Why the force are

trained to step with a measured tread, which proclaims their personality

minutes before their arrival, is one of those questions only to be

answered by the benevolent supposition that Authority is anxious to warn

Criminality that it is coming!


The constable had a dejected air, he put no energy into the trying of

doors and windows, and even the sight of a drunk going by short tacks up

Junction Street did not restore his animation.


“Never get a chance!” he muttered to himself; “never get a chance.  In

the force three years and only a common constable and a B.A. of London

University, too!  What’s the use of education, anyway?  Now, if I was

only ignorant enough I might be a Member of Parliament, or perhaps a

Minister of the Crown.  But to spend years of time and bags of money to

end as a policeman is enough to make a man sick.  If I was only a

sergeant now it would not be so bad.  But on the Shore ability has no

show, never a burglary worth speaking of, and as for a good murder such a

thing is unheard of.  I really don’t know what possesses the people.  If

it was not for a few old reliable drunks that I can always run in in case

of need, I should have got the sack for incompetency long ago.  Over in

Sydney, how different!  Hardly a night but some chap has a turn, and not

a paltry drunk with nothing in his pockets either.”


By this time the speaker had arrived at the top of that long flight of

steps that runs down the steep hill at the foot of Walker Street to the

wharf at Lavender Bay.  Here he paused a while, and his talk to himself

took a new turn.


“Shall I or shan’t I have a smoke?  It is an hour before I have to meet

the Sergeant.  Shall I waste it in a profitless round of deserted streets

and lanes, or have a quiet whiff in the bushes there?  I will put the

motion to the meeting, as our chairman used to say.  Decidedly I think

the ‘ayes’ have it.  Then here’s for a smoke.”


Saying this he drew a short black pipe from some hidden pocket, charged

it with tobacco, and descending the steps a short distance, turned into

the bushes on his left.  He was just about to strike a light when the

figure of a man started up before him and rushed forward.


Without hesitation the policeman took up the chase thus offered.  It was

too dark to see very clearly, but the fugitive appeared to be a young

active man carrying a bag.  Now such a character does not go tearing

around a quiet suburb like North Shore at four o’clock in the morning

with an honest motive.  So at least thought P.-C.  Hobbs, and he shouted

“Stop!” and went at his best handicap speed to overtake the fugitive.

But this person, far from stopping or losing in the race, had now turned

some corner of stone or bush, and when the constable came out in the open

ground beyond the bushes he found his prey had fled.


Not a sound, not a sign.  The earth might have closed on him.


More disconsolate than ever, Hobbs retraced his steps.


“Just my luck—the same old luck!  The only kind of a chance I have had

for a month, and it slips through my fingers.”


Going not far from the steps he sat concealed in the bushes, and puffed

his pipe.  And it seemed to him as he gazed through the fumes of Black

Jack, that his previous view of things had been pessimistic—his turn

would come some day.  North Shore could not for ever remain so

ferociously virtuous.  A time might come when theft, even, perhaps, a

good murder might occur on his beat.  And then people would learn that it

was not for nothing that he had qualified as B.A. at London University.


The dusky light and cold air of dawn now made our philosopher consider

the time come to proceed on his round.  Already fish-buyers and

news-vendors were descending the steps to proceed by the first boat.  The

steamer was at the wharf puffing out steam as Hobbs looked down on her

from the steps.


But stay!  Who is that who rushes out from the bushes next the baths and

dives at full speed down the slope?




Like a flash our policeman again starts in pursuit.  This time he says to

himself, “The man is mine!”


Vain hope!  Even as he rushes into the waiting-room the ferry-boat has

cast off and left the wharf.  He sees the man with the bag make a

desperate leap over a yawning chasm of green sea and white foam, and land

safely on the deck.  And when he arrives it is only to be greeted by the

derisive jeers of the little crowd of passengers.


Slowly he returns up the steps.  Shall he report the matter to the

Sergeant?  It might gain him credit, and the information might prove of

use.  On the other hand, the Sergeant might want to know what he wanted

at that part of his beat at that particular time.  And the question would

be awkward.


This is how it came about that the police records are bare of any mention

of the vain chase by P.-C.  Hobbs of a suspicious character carrying a





Status: Ongoing Type: , Author: Native Language: English
A great detective story .........


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not work with dark mode